Thursday, November 23, 2017

Lévi-Strauss vs. Propp

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 12:25 PM

​Claude Lévi-Strauss

From "Structure and Form:
Reflections on a Work by Vladimir Propp
" *

To maintain. as I have done. that the permutability of contents is not arbitrary amounts to saying that, if the analysis is carried to a sufficiently deep level, behind diversity we will discover constancy. And, of course. the avowed constancy of form must not hide from us that functions are also permutable.

The structure of the folktale as it is illustrated by Propp presents a chronological succession of qualitatively distinct functions. each constituting an independent genre. One can wonder whether—as with dramatis personae and their attributes— Propp does not stop too soon, seeking the form too close to the level of empirical observation. Among the thirty-one functions that he distinguishes, several are reducible to the same  function reappearing at different  moments of the narrative but after undergoing one or a number of transformations . I have already suggested that this could be true of the false hero (a transformation of the villain), of assigning a difficult task (a transformation of the test), etc. (see p. 181 above), and that in this case the two parties  constituting the fundamental tale would themselves be transformations of each other.

Nothing prevents pushing this reduction even further and analyzing each separate partie  into a small number of recurrent functions, so that several of Propp's functions would constitute groups of transformations of one and the same function. We could treat the "violation" as the reverse of the "prohibition" and the latter as a negative transformation of the "injunction." The "departure" of the hero and his "return" would appear as the negative and positive expressions of the same disjunctive function. The "quest" of the hero (hero pursues someone or something) would become the opposite of "pursuit" (hero is pursued by something or someone), etc.

In Vol. I of Structural Anthropology , p. 209, I have shown that this analysis alone can account for the double aspect of time representation in all mythical systems: the narrative is both "in time" (it consists of a succession of events) and "beyond" (its value is permanent). With regard to Propp's theories my analysis offers another advantage: I can reconcile much better than Propp himself  his principle of a permanent order of wondertale elements with the fact that certain functions or groups of functions are shifted from one tale to the next (pp. 97-98. p. 108) If my view is accepted, the chronological succession will come to be absorbed into an atemporal matrix structure whose form is indeed constant. The shifting of functions is then no more than a mode of permutation (by vertical columns or fractions of columns).

These critical remarks are certainly valid for the method used by Propp and for his conclusions. However. it cannot be stressed enough that Propp envisioned them and in several places formulated with perfect clarity the solutions I have just suggested. Let us take up again from this viewpoint the two essential themes of our discussion: constancy of the content (in spite of its permutability) and permutability of functions (in spite of their constancy).

* Translated from a 1960 work in French.  It appeared in English as Chapter VIII of Structural Anthropology, Volume 2  (Basic Books, 1976. and U. of Chicago Press, 1976.)  Chapter VIII was originally published in Cahiers de l'Institut de Science économique appliquée, No. 9 (Series M, No. 7) (Paris: ISEA, March 1960).

See also "Lévi-Strauss" + Formula  in this journal.

Some background related to the previous post

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Another 35-Year Wait

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — m759 @ 9:00 PM

The title refers to today's earlier post "The 35-Year Wait."

A check of my activities 35 years ago this fall, in the autumn
of 1982, yields a formula I prefer to the nonsensical, but famous,
"canonical formula" of Claude Lévi-Strauss.

The Lévi-Strauss formula

My "inscape" formula, from a note of Sept. 22, 1982 —

S = f ( f ( X ) ) .

Some mathematics from last year related to the 1982 formula —

Koen Thas, 'Unextendible Mututally Unbiased Bases' (2016)

See also Inscape in this  journal and posts tagged Dirac and Geometry.

Dueling Formulas

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — m759 @ 12:35 PM

Continued from the previous post and from posts
now tagged Dueling Formulas

The four-diamond formula of Jung and
the four-dot "as" of Claude Lévi-Strauss:


Simplified versions of the diamonds and the dots

The Ring of the Diamond Theorem          ::

I prefer Jung. For those who prefer Lévi-Strauss —

     First edition, Cornell University Press, 1970.

A related tale — "A Meaning, Like."

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Elementary Art

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 12:00 PM

The above cycle may have influenced the design
of Carl Jung's symbol of the self —

Jung's Self-Symbol


Related art by
Steven H. Cullinane

See also Levi-Strauss Formula in this journal.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Key to All Mythologies…

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 6:08 PM

According to Octavio Paz and Claude Lévi-Strauss

"Poetry…. conceives of the text as a series of transparent strata
within which the various parts—the different verbal and semantic
currents— produce momentary configurations as they intertwine
or break apart, as they reflect each other or efface each other.
Poetry contemplates itself, fuses with itself, and obliterates itself
in the crystallizations of language. Apparitions, metamorphoses,
volatilizations, precipitations of presences. These configurations
are crystallized time…."

— Octavio Paz in  The Monkey Grammarian  (written in 1970)

"Strata" also seem to underlie the Lévi-Strauss "canonic formula" of myth
in its original 1955 context, described as that of permutation groups  —

The 1955 Levi-Strauss 'canonic formula' in its original context of permutation groups

I do not recommend trying to make sense of the above "formula."

Related material —

"And six sides to bounce it all off of.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Diamond Theorem …

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 11:00 AM

As the Key to All Mythologies

For the theorem of the title, see "Diamond Theorem" in this journal.

"These were heavy impressions to struggle against,
and brought that melancholy embitterment which
is the consequence of all excessive claim: even his
religious faith wavered with his wavering trust in his
own authorship, and the consolations of the Christian
hope in immortality seemed to lean on the immortality
of the still unwritten Key to all Mythologies."

Middlemarch , by George Eliot, Ch. XXIX

Related material from Sunday's print New York Times

Sunday's Log24 sermon

See also the Lévi-Strauss "Key to all Mythologies" in this journal,
as well as the previous post.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Structural Study

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — m759 @ 12:00 AM

The Lévi-Strauss "canonic formula" of myth in its original 1955 context,
described as that of permutation groups 

The 1955 Levi-Strauss 'canonic formula' in its original context of permutation groups

Related material in this  journal —

Dueling Formulas and Symmetry.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Ideogram Principle …

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — m759 @ 4:23 PM

According to McLuhan

Marshall McLuhan writing to Ezra Pound on Dec. 21, 1948—

"The American mind is not even close to being amenable
to the ideogram principle as yet.  The reason is simply this.
America is 100% 18th Century. The 18th century had
chucked out the principle of metaphor and analogy—
the basic fact that as A is to B so is C to D.  AB:CD.   
It can see AB relations.  But relations in four terms are still
verboten.  This amounts to deep occultation of nearly all
human thought for the U.S.A.

I am trying to devise a way of stating this difficulty as it exists.  
Until stated and publicly recognized for what it is, poetry and
the arts can’t exist in America."

For context, see Cameron McEwen,
"Marshall McLuhan, John Pick, and Gerard Manley Hopkins."
(Renascence , Fall 2011, Vol. 64 Issue 1, 55-76)

A relation in four terms

A : B  ::  C : D   as   Model : Crutch  ::  Metaphor : Ornament —

See also Dueling Formulas and Symmetry.

Thursday, May 19, 2016


Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 2:27 AM

From a check tonight of The New York Review of Books

These NYRB  stories from May 15 and May 13 suggest a
review of images on Ratner's Star  and on the Eye of God.

IMAGE- 'Ratner's Star,' by Don DeLillo (1976)

Above image reposted from Jan. 10, 2014

I. The structures in the Diamond Puzzle

Adam and God (Sistine Chapel), with Jungian Self-Symbol and Ojo de Dios (The Diamond Puzzle)

Click on image for Jungian background.

II: The structure on a recent cover of Semiotica

'Semiotica' cover and article by Solomon Marcus on Levi-Strauss's 'canonic formula' of myth

Above images reposted from May 5, 2016

Related material:  The previous post, Dueling Formulas.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Dueling Formulas

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — m759 @ 12:00 AM

Jung's four-diamond formula vs. Levi-Strauss's 'canonical formula'

Note the echo of Jung's formula in the diamond theorem.

An attempt by Lévi-Strauss to defend his  formula —

"… reducing the life of the mind to an abstract game . . . ." —

For a fictional version of such a game, see Das Glasperlenspiel .

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Bullshit Studies

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — m759 @ 1:06 AM

The originator of the phrase 'Fab Four' reportedly
died at 80 on Saturday, May 14, 2016.

This suggests a review of another noted four-set.

The above image is from a study of Lévi-Strauss's "Canonical Formula"

Midrash —

Log24 post titled 'As Is'

[Above photo of Lévi-Strauss and formula added June 6, 2016.]

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Solomon’s Seal

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 11:00 PM

Excerpt from a post of November 4, 2009

I. The structures in the Diamond Puzzle

Adam and God (Sistine Chapel), with Jungian Self-Symbol and Ojo de Dios (The Diamond Puzzle)

Click on image for Jungian background.

II: The structure on a recent cover of Semiotica

'Semiotica' cover and article by Solomon Marcus on Levi-Strauss's 'canonic formula' of myth

For some related material, see a search 
for Solomon Marcus in this  journal.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sinner or Saint?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — m759 @ 10:31 AM

As noted here yesterday, Claude Levi-Strauss may have died on Devil's Night, on Halloween, or on All Saints' Day. He was apparently a myth-transformer to the end.

The Independent says today he died on Sunday, All Saints' Day. Its eulogy, by Adam Kuper, is well-written, noting that linguist Roman Jakobson was a source of Levi-Strauss's theory of oppositions in myth, and observing that

"… binary oppositions tend to accumulate to form structures…."

Yes, they do. Examples:

I. The structures in the Diamond Puzzle

Adam and God (Sistine Chapel), with Jungian Self-Symbol and Ojo de Dios (The Diamond Puzzle)

Click on image for Jungian background.

II: The structure on a recent cover of Semiotica


Click to enlarge.

The Semiotica article by mathematical linguist Solomon Marcus is a defense of the Levi-Strauss canonic formula mentioned here yesterday.

It is available online for $40.

A less expensive, and possibly more informative, look at oppositions in linguistics is available for free online in a 1984 master's thesis (pdf, 8+ mb)–

"Language, Linguistics, and Philosophy: A Comparison of the Work of Roman Jakobson and the Later Wittgenstein, with Some Attention to the Philosophy of Charles Saunders Peirce," by Miles Spencer Kimball.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Summa Mythologica

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — m759 @ 10:10 PM

Book review by Jadran Mimica in Oceania, Vol. 74, 2003:

"In his classic essay of 1955 'The Structural Study of Myth' Levi-Strauss came up with a universal formula of mythopeic dynamics

[fx(a) : fy(b) :: fx(b) : fa-1(y)]

that he called canonical 'for it can represent any mythic transformation'. This formulation received its consummation in the four massive Mythologiques volumes, the last of which crystallises the fundamental dialectics of mythopoeic thought: that there is 'one myth only' and the primal ground of this 'one' is 'nothing'. The elucidation of the generative matrix of the myth-work is thus completed as is the self-totalisation of both the thinker and his object."

So there.

At least one mathematician has claimed that the Levi-Strauss formula makes sense. (Jack Morava, arXiv pdf, 2003.)

I prefer the earlier (1943) remarks of Hermann Hesse on transformations of myth:

"…in the spirit of the Glass Bead Game, everything actually was all-meaningful, that every symbol and combination of symbols led not hither and yon, not to single examples, experiments, and proofs, but into the center, the mystery and innermost heart of the world, into primal knowledge. Every transition from major to minor in a sonata, every transformation of a myth or a religious cult, every classical or artistic formulation was, I realized in that flashing moment, if seen with a truly meditative mind, nothing but a direct route into the interior of the cosmic mystery, where in the alternation between inhaling and exhaling, between heaven and earth, between Yin and Yang, holiness is forever being created."

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Thursday September 3, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 11:07 AM
Autistic Enchantment

“Music and mathematics are among the pre-eminent wonders of the race. Levi-Strauss sees in the invention of melody ‘a key to the supreme mystery’ of man– a clue, could we but follow it, to the singular structure and genius of the species. The power of mathematics to devise actions for reasons as subtle, witty, manifold as any offered by sensory experience and to move forward in an endless unfolding of self-creating life is one of the strange, deep marks man leaves on the world. Chess, on the other hand, is a game in which thirty-two bits of ivory, horn, wood, metal, or (in stalags) sawdust stuck together with shoe polish, are pushed around on sixty-four alternately coloured squares. To the addict, such a description is blasphemy. The origins of chess are shrouded in mists of controversy, but unquestionably this very ancient, trivial pastime has seemed to many exceptionally intelligent human beings of many races and centuries to constitute a reality, a focus for the emotions, as substantial as, often more substantial than, reality itself. Cards can come to mean the same absolute. But their magnetism is impure. A mania for whist or poker hooks into the obvious, universal magic of money. The financial element in chess, where it exists at all, has always been small or accidental.

To a true chess player, the pushing about of thirty-two counters on 8×8 squares is an end in itself, a whole world next to which that of a mere biological or political or social life seems messy, stale, and contingent. Even the patzer, the wretched amateur who charges out with his knight pawn when the opponent’s bishop decamps to R4, feels this daemonic spell. There are siren moments when quite normal creatures otherwise engaged, men such as Lenin and myself, feel like giving up everything– marriage, mortgages, careers, the Russian Revolution– in order to spend their days and nights moving little carved objects up and down a quadrate board. At the sight of a set, even the tawdriest of plastic pocket sets, one’s fingers arch and a coldness as in a light sleep steals over one’s spine. Not for gain, not for knowledge or reknown, but in some autistic enchantment, pure as one of Bach’s inverted canons or Euler’s formula for polyhedra.”

— George Steiner in “A Death of Kings,” The New Yorker, issue dated September 7, 1968, page 133

“Examples are the stained-glass windows of knowledge.” —Nabokov

Quaternion rotations in a finite geometry
Click above images for some context.

See also:

Log24 entries of May 30, 2006, as well as “For John Cramer’s daughter Kathryn”– August 27, 2009— and related material at Wikipedia (where Kathryn is known as “Pleasantville”).

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Thursday August 11, 2005

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 8:16 AM

Kaleidoscope, continued

From Clifford Geertz, The Cerebral Savage:

"Savage logic works like a kaleidoscope whose chips can fall into a variety of patterns while remaining unchanged in quantity, form, or color. The number of patterns producible in this way may be large if the chips are numerous and varied enough, but it is not infinite. The patterns consist in the disposition of the chips vis-a-vis one another (that is, they are a function of the relationships among the chips rather than their individual properties considered separately).  And their range of possible transformations is strictly determined by the construction of the kaleidoscope, the inner law which governs its operation. And so it is too with savage thought.  Both anecdotal and geometric, it builds coherent structures out of 'the odds and ends left over from psychological or historical process.'

These odds and ends, the chips of the kaleidoscope, are images drawn from myth, ritual, magic, and empirical lore….  as in a kaleidoscope, one always sees the chips distributed in some pattern, however ill-formed or irregular.   But, as in a kaleidoscope, they are detachable from these structures and arrangeable into different ones of a similar sort….  Levi-Strauss generalizes this permutational view of thinking to savage thought in general.  It is all a matter of shuffling discrete (and concrete) images–totem animals, sacred colors, wind directions, sun deities, or whatever–so as to produce symbolic structures capable of formulating and communicating objective (which is not to say accurate) analyses of the social and physical worlds.

…. And the point is general.  The relationship between a symbolic structure and its referent, the basis of its meaning,  is fundamentally 'logical,' a coincidence of form– not affective, not historical, not functional.  Savage thought is frozen reason and anthropology is, like music and mathematics, 'one of the few true vocations.'

Or like linguistics."

Edward Sapir on Linguistics, Mathematics, and Music:

"… linguistics has also that profoundly serene and satisfying quality which inheres in mathematics and in music and which may be described as the creation out of simple elements of a self-contained universe of forms.  Linguistics has neither the sweep nor the instrumental power of mathematics, nor has it the universal aesthetic appeal of music.  But under its crabbed, technical, appearance there lies hidden the same classical spirit, the same freedom in restraint, which animates mathematics and music at their purest."

— Edward Sapir, "The Grammarian and his Language,"
  American Mercury 1:149-155,1924

From Robert de Marrais, Canonical Collage-oscopes:

"…underwriting the form languages of ever more domains of mathematics is a set of deep patterns which not only offer access to a kind of ideality that Plato claimed to see the universe as created with in the Timaeus; more than this, the realm of Platonic forms is itself subsumed in this new set of design elements– and their most general instances are not the regular solids, but crystallographic reflection groups.  You know, those things the non-professionals call . . . kaleidoscopes! *  (In the next exciting episode, we'll see how Derrida claims mathematics is the key to freeing us from 'logocentrism' **— then ask him why, then, he jettisoned the deepest structures of mathematical patterning just to make his name…)

* H. S. M. Coxeter, Regular Polytopes (New York: Dover, 1973) is the great classic text by a great creative force in this beautiful area of geometry  (A polytope is an n-dimensional analog of a polygon or polyhedron.  Chapter V of this book is entitled 'The Kaleidoscope'….)

** … contemporary with the Johns Hopkins hatchet job that won him American marketshare, Derrida was also being subjected to a series of probing interviews in Paris by the hometown crowd.  He first gained academic notoriety in France for his book-length reading of Husserl's two-dozen-page essay on 'The Origin of Geometry.'  The interviews were collected under the rubric of Positions (Chicago: U. of Chicago Press, 1981…).  On pp. 34-5 he says the following: 'the resistance to logico-mathematical notation has always been the signature of logocentrism and phonologism in the event to which they have dominated metaphysics and the classical semiological and linguistic projects…. A grammatology that would break with this system of presuppositions, then, must in effect liberate the mathematization of language…. The effective progress of mathematical notation thus goes along with the deconstruction of metaphysics, with the profound renewal of mathematics itself, and the concept of science for which mathematics has always been the model.'  Nice campaign speech, Jacques; but as we'll see, you reneged on your promise not just with the kaleidoscope (and we'll investigate, in depth, the many layers of contradiction and cluelessness you put on display in that disingenuous 'playing to the house'); no, we'll see how, at numerous other critical junctures, you instinctively took the wrong fork in the road whenever mathematical issues arose… henceforth, monsieur, as Joe Louis once said, 'You can run, but you just can't hide.'…."

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